In his new comedy “The House,” Will Ferrell plays Scott Johansen, a suburban dad so desperate to fund his daughter’s college education that he begins running an illegal casino in his home. The movie arrives in theaters on Friday, June 30, but judging by the trailers, “The House” finds Ferrell on familiar ground as a none-too-bright but lovable bumbler. In one scene, Ferrell’s character dons what he thinks is the outfit of a classic Mafioso, though he’s actually wearing women’s sunglasses. “The House” also stars Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas and Nick Kroll.
Ferrell has been perfecting his comedic persona since his “Saturday Night Live” days in the mid-1990s, when he made a name for himself playing President George W. Bush, the game-show host Alex Trebek and a fictional member of Blue Öyster Cult, among others. Mike Meyers’ 1997 comedy “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” gave Ferrell his first movie role, as the unfortunate villain Mustafa — “I’m still alive, only I’m very badly burned!” — and launched a career of roughly 40 feature films over more than 20 years.
Thanks to a string of successful comedies in the 2000s, plus his voice work in the recent animated hit “The Lego Movie,” Ferrell’s films have earned $2.7 billion, making him one of Hollywood’s top-grossing comedians, according to TheNumbers.com. (He’s ranked above Jim Carrey and Seth Rogen, though below Adam Sandler.)
“The House” may add to Ferrell’s box-office total, but how will it stack up against the hits that have made him such an audience favorite? Here are Ferrell’s 10 best movies so far.
10. 'ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES' (2013)
The original film attained such classic status that this sequel seemed bound to disappoint. Nevertheless, it has its moments. There’s delicious irony in Ron entering the age of 24-hour cable news (which he calls “without a doubt the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”) and plenty of absurdist moments, notably an extended sequence in a runaway RV. As for the cast, they seem thrilled to be back together. All told, this follow-up earns its keep.
9. 'STEP BROTHERS' (2008)
Ferrell and his “Talladega Nights” co-star John C. Reilly play layabouts who are forced to live together when their respective parents get married. The man-child comedy subgenre felt a little worn by this point, but Ferrell and Reilly are so good at tapping their inner 10-year-olds (“Are you awake? I want you to know that I hate you”) that they make it work.
8. 'THE OTHER GUYS' (2010)
Ferrell and Wahlberg made a surprisingly good team as bungling cops who uncover a massive crime operation. It’s hit and miss, but there’s a very funny running gag in which Ferrell, as the nerdy Allen, constantly apologizes for his homely wife (Eva Mendes, in full knockout mode). Truth be told, it’s the brief scene with Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson — as arrogant cops who meet a hilarious demise — that makes this movie worth the ticket price.
7. 'STRANGER THAN FICTION' (2006)
Turning to drama can be a risky move for comedic actors, and Ferrell took an even bigger gamble with this meta-narrative about a man who discovers he’s the creation of a novelist (Emma Thompson). Though not without its overwrought moments, the film became a critical success and put Ferrell alongside Steve Martin, Robin Williams and other funnymen who proved their dramatic acting chops.
6. 'DADDY’S HOME' (2015)
Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were superb as two very different dads — the dependable square and the ramblin’ rogue, respectively — who battle for the affections of two kids. The jokes are tried and true (sports mishaps, mostly) and the story has some genuine emotional pull. If not for one or two PG-13 moments, this could have been a family hit along the lines of “Elf.” The sequel arrives in November.
5. 'BLADES OF GLORY' (2007)
Somewhat overlooked in the Ferrell canon, this figure-skating parody stars an excellent Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”) as Jimmy MacElroy, a fey skating champion who must team up with his nemesis, Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell), a sex-addicted train wreck. The whole thing is a hoot, and the gay-panic jokes mostly mock the uptight straight heroes. Bonus points to Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as a skating team whose idea of a routine is to re-create Marilyn Monroe’s affair with JFK.
4. 'OLD SCHOOL' (2003)
The plot: Three grown men relive their youth by starting a fraternity. The cast: Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. The result: a breakout turn for Ferrell, thanks largely to his now-famous streaking scene. “Old School” also foreshadowed nearly every “overgrown adolescent” comedy to hit theaters for the next 10 years. (It’s no coincidence that the director was Todd Phillips, of “The Hangover.”)
3. 'TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE LEGEND OF RICKY BOBBY' (2006)
A gonzo sendup of NASCAR, starring Ferrell as a small-town racing champ who meets his match in the openly gay Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron-Cohen). Joke for joke, there are enough bulls-eyes here for several movies, with much of the humor clearly improvised. The movie’s secret weapon: John C. Reilly as Ricky’s second-banana teammate, Cal “Shake and Bake” Naughton Jr.
2. 'ELF' (2003)
Ferrell was known for grown-up comedies with off-color humor when he hung a U-turn with this family-friendly, holiday-themed release. As Buddy, a grown man unaware he was adopted by Santa’s elves, Ferrell combined his distinctively woolly brand of slapstick with the kind of poignancy you’d expect in a Chaplin or Capra movie. It worked like a charm: “Elf” earned $173 million and — not counting “The Lego Movie” — remains Ferrell’s top-grossing film.
1. 'ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY' (2004)
The San Diego newscaster with the macho mustache and Scotchy breath remains the definitive Ferrell role, an endlessly entertaining combination of arrogance and cluelessness. Ferrell also had a crack team of supporting players in Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate, not to mention writer-director Adam McKay (who would become Ferrell’s frequent collaborator and business partner on the “Funny or Die” website). If a movie’s success is measured in quotable lines — “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” — then this is surely Ferrell’s biggest hit.